The Valley Baptist Health System and its landmark hospital in Harlingen have long been synonymous with Cameron County.
Its reach was extended in the county to Brownsville last decade with the purchase of an existing hospital. The health system is now making a huge strategic move. In Jan. 2020, it will open a micro-hospital in Weslaco. Valley Baptist executives say is a first move to further expand its footprint in Hidalgo County.
“For us to go into the edge of Hidalgo County and be able to offer services that will keep people closer to home in seeking medical care is something we’re thrilled about,” said Jennifer Bartnesky-Smith, the market chief strategy officer for the Valley Baptist Health System. “For us, it’s a just starting point.”
Bartnesky-Smith describes the Valley Baptist Micro-Hospital – Weslaco as the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley. It is more than a facility offering emergency room care. It will have internal medicine and emergency room physicians and a staff of 80 employees in a 28,000-square-foot facility. The micro-hospital will also offer eight in-patient rooms, 12 ER rooms and two trauma rooms.
A services element that Bartnesky-Smith and the incoming site administrator Ronda Lewis particularly cite is the patient imagery the micro hospital will offer. Ultrasounds, CT scans and X-ray services will all be part of the daily operations at the micro-hospital. It will open on Jan. 6 and has an all-in cost of $20 million.
Entering the Mid-Valley market
Valley Baptist is turning to Lewis to lead the new facility. She is a registered nurse by training. For the last 10 years, she has been the director of surgical services at its Harlingen hospital.
“I’m really looking forward to what we can bring to the community, and from the feedback we’ve been getting, they’re as excited as we are for Valley Baptist to be there,” said Lewis. The facility will be located on the southside of Expressway 77/83 between Westgate Drive and Texas Boulevard.
Lewis lays out scenarios where she sees the Weslaco micro-hospital providing invaluable medical services. She says a patient can come in and have a stroke diagnosis after imagery work is done. Treatment will then start immediately. If more extensive treatment is needed, the patient can then be transported to Valley Baptist in Harlingen. The patient’s imagery will already have been studied by arrival time in Harlingen, thus saving precious time in treating a stroke.
“We going to Weslaco to be part of the community,” Lewis said. “With a micro facility, we’ll be able to provide more of a personal touch.”
For Weslaco, the entrance of Valley Baptist to the Mid-Valley is another indication of the community’s growth. It will also provide a considerable boost to health care in the area.
“Micro-hospitals are an innovative way of serving the community,” said Marie McDermott, the executive director of the Weslaco Economic Council. “It will be located on a premier site off the (expressway) frontage road and will highlight new retail development in Weslaco.”